It's long been recognized that Ty Dolla $ign, born Tyrone Griffin Jr., is much more than solely a rapper and R&B singer, but also a talented multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and arranger. Such a skill set undoubtedly requires a high degree of perfectionism, a trait that may have kept his long-anticipated debut, Free TC, out of reach until now. The record's length (which falls slightly short of an hour and a half) and a feature list that could be deemed overcrowded would both be enough to turn some away.
But Griffin largely achieves his lofty goals here, with the record serving as a good indicator of his compositional talent. He and guests Kendrick Lamar, Brandy and James Fauntleroy bask in the exquisite arrangements of opener "LA," while he takes on that duty himself not long after on the slinky "Straight Up." The record's apex, which comes with "Miracle/Wherever," features a verse from Ty's incarcerated brother TC, reaching both a musical and emotional peak in its latter half. Undeniable bangers? He's got those on deck too, courtesy of "Blasé" and the DJ Mustard-produced "Saved" and "Only Right." Such sonic care even makes a few of these cuts, namely the clunky Kanye and Diddy-featuring "Guard Down" and the R. Kelly-assisted "Actress," more palatable than they would've been otherwise.
The most left-field musical moments on Free TC are also oddly endearing: strings and vocal harmonies bolster the straightforward strumming of the pseudo-country cut "Solid," the smooth blues guitar complements the rampant double-entendre of "Horses in the Stable," a hedonistic hook makes the house-leaning "Bring It Out of Me" an earworm and SA-RA and Thundercat's otherworldly tones gently close things on the severely stoned "Finale."
Though a bit of a slog at points, what could have easily been a 16-track collection of Griffin's ambition becoming his downfall, is a worthwhile look at the multifaceted nature of his musical brain. It's worth sticking around for. (Taylor Gang)